The Other Side Of The Story

This morning, Beth Lisser tweeted a link to an article in The Globe and Mail entitled, “Ontario’s $1.5 Billion Kindergarten Hoax.” I heard of this article before, but I didn’t read it until today. I’ll admit, it made me mad! While I teach Grade 5 now, I taught Kindergarten for 8 years, and I really believe in the value of the Full-Day Kindergarten Program. I communicate with many incredible Full-Day Kindergarten teachers online, and their ideas inspire me to re-look at the value of inquiry in the classroom and re-think my teaching approach. Statistics are funny though, and I think that sometimes when we look at the numbers, we miss the story behind those numbers.

There’s a link in the article to the Final Report: Evaluation of the Implementation of the Ontario Full-Day Early-Learning Kindergarten Program. I’m going to admit that I didn’t read the entire report, but I did peruse most of it, and I saw enough to know that there’s another side to the figures.

  • One big concern is with the numbers. There are often up to 30 students in the classroom. Yes, these numbers are large, but for two years, I team-taught Kindergarten with 42 students in a class, so this seems small by comparison. It’s important to remember that there are two adults in the classroom, working together to facilitate learning. I think that’s the important part. When the adults collaborate, and both work together to plan and assess students, the report indicates greater success.
  • It’s about adopting the program. The Full-Day Kindergarten Program speaks to the value of inquiry. It’s about small group support. It’s about the power of choice and voice. It’s about creating provocations for learning, and then following through to extend that learning. The report looks at different Full-Day Kindergarten classroom environments, and the one with the greatest success was the one that really adopted the use of inquiry. The one with the least success was the one where the teacher ran a more traditional program with more full-class instruction and less choice. Change can be hard! The success of the program rests partially in people making a big change to their teaching style.
  • It’s about collaboration. Teachers, DECEs, and possibly EAs need to all work and plan together to help students succeed. This can be difficult. Each adult can possibly have a different philosophy when it comes to student learning, and it’s important to see the value in the varying thoughts. I think it’s incredible how much we can learn from each other, and what a great opportunity to have different experts in the room!
  • It’s about the home/school connection. The carryover at home is so important, as then parents can help reinforce the skills learned at school. They can’t do this though if they don’t know what’s happening in the classroom. This is where communication is key! I know many Full-Day Kindergarten educators with incredible blogs: learning is shared with the parents, and through comments, parents can share the “home learning” with the school.
  • It’s about differentiated instruction. One concern was about the number of students in the Kindergarten classrooms that need additional support. There were students with behavioural needs and special needs, and the argument was that the other students did not get support. I think that this is where differentiated instruction is critical! If students need more structure, then look at how to provide them with this structure: be it through more specific choices, small group intervention, or social stories to outline expectations. Capitalize on student interest to help engage students and eliminate behavioural difficulties. Will this plan be perfect? Maybe not. But it’s worth a try!
  • It’s about capitalizing on what is available. There’s discussion in the article about the need for more tools to document student learning. Even as a Grade 5 teacher, I document the student learning each day with the use of an iPad (my own) and sometimes the Livescribe Pen (also mine). Yes, I’m in a school where I have access to many devices and many students bring their own, but this documentation and assessment, really happens with one (and sometimes two) devices. I walk around all day with my iPad, and I use this to capture learning. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s incredibly powerful! Thanks to Storify, I can share all of these photographs, videos, recordings, and tweets with parents on our Daily Shoot Blog. Ideally, if each adult in a Full-Day Kindergarten classroom has a device, then this learning is documented and shared by everyone.

As a Grade 5 teacher, I’ve spent this year really looking at how the Full-Day Kindergarten Program model can be applied to other grades. I’ve tried to create a classroom environment that is rich in inquiry and full of accountable talk. I’ve seen the benefits! Students are thinking in ways that they never have before. They’re more eager to learn, and have become more self-directed learners. And I teach 29 students with a wide variety of needs — from those with autism, to those with learning disabilities, and those that are gifted — and every one of them has benefitted from this environment. Yes, my students are older, but the philosophy remains the same.

What are your experiences with Full-Day Kindergarten? How do you view the statistics? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!


6 thoughts on “The Other Side Of The Story

  1. Hi Aviva,

    Thanks for another great post! When I first read the article title I the author could only been 1 of 2 “journalists” and I was right 🙂 Is FDK perfect? No. Are the fundamental philosophies and guiding principles of an inquiry based FDK program good for kids. In my opinion yes! What the “journalist” seems to miss is the fact that students today are not coming to school with some of the basic knowledge and skills that students had in the past. I remember clearly knowing all my letters, I was able to print my name and I knew how to play with other kids. The reason was what my parents did at home. We had the magnetic fridge letters, we read a lot together and we played outside from the time the we got home from school until we were called for supper. My experience with FDK have all been positive. The change in the kids is incredible to see. Is it a change many teachers will struggle with? Sure. But at the end of the day the FDK program is what is best for kids. It’s too bad some journalists take such a narrow view and base their commentary solely on the cost of the program today and not the benefits it will create in the future.

    All in my opinion of course 🙂

    And BTW…I have learned when I see that particular “journalist” as the author, I stop reading. It’s better for my health.

    • Thanks for chiming in here, David! I know nothing about the journalist, so this is some interesting additional information. I think that there can be a wide range of skills of students coming into the program depending on various factors. That being said, I do believe that ALL students will benefit from the inquiry model. Even with the wide range of abilities that I currently have in my classroom, I see the benefits to inquiry. The hardest part: making, what could be, a REALLY big change to our teaching styles. Like you, I think it’s worth the change though!


  2. Thanks for sharing this Aviva and talking about some important points. I also have a Kindergarten background and like you I think this is why I am able to infuse play/inquiry based learning into my grade 3 program so easily. I have the vision of what it looks like right at the start. I agree with most of what you said. It’s about adopting change, working collaboratively as a team to do what’s best for the kids. Be in tune with the kids interests and lighting those sparks but then letting the kids direct their learning. However I don’t support the 30 kids in the classroom. It’s why I asked to leave FDK even though my heart will always belong in K. I’ve also team taught K in the open concept pod situation but this felt different. My ECE and I (we had an amazing partnernship) split the kids up into smaller groups and really focused on the kids needs but it always felt “crazy”. Too be honest as the mom of a JK student I don’t know if I really want my own child in the FDK setting and it’s not because I don’t value, love and support the program. I just can’t do the numbers.

    • Thanks for chiming in here, Shivonne! I find it really interesting to hear this comment from someone that taught Full-Day Kindergarten. I wonder why it felt different than team teaching. The numbers would have been similar … right? I’d really love to see some Full-Day Kindergarten classes in action. Maybe then I could really see, and appreciate, the numbers.

      Even though you’re no longer in Kindergarten, I’m glad that you can bring the positives of the philosophy up into the grades!

  3. Okay this totally made me mad, “ECEs feel disrespected by the teachers, and the two groups don’t get along.”

    Maybe this happens. I can only speak for the relationships at my school but this is so not the case. The teachers and ECE’s have an amazing working partnership.

    • I’m so glad that this relationship is a positive one at your school, Shivonne, and I hope that it is at other schools too. Everyone is working together to benefit the students. This is what matters most!


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